Sunday, 23 June 2024

‘No Hard Feelings’ a comedy teaser; ‘Billions’ ends on TV


Craigslist is a familiar website as a marketplace with classified advertisements where one can find jobs, services, housing, things to buy and sell, discussion forums, and you name it.

This online trading post is now the place to find an idea for a movie. Writer-director Gene Stupnitsky, the creative force behind “No Hard Feelings,” told Jennifer Lawrence that two producers for the film found a real-life Craigslist post that fit the bill.

The popular marketplace had an ad posted by parents that sought a young woman to seduce their timid, inexperienced son, and transform him from a high school nerd to a cool college kid with confidence.

That’s the basic premise of “No Hard Feelings,” with Jennifer Lawrence’s Maddie, a resident of tony Montauk’s summer resort town, thinking she’s found the answer to her financial troubles when she hears about an intriguing job listing.

Wealthy helicopter parents Laird (Matthew Broderick) and Allison Becker (Laura Benanti) are looking for someone to “date” their introverted 19-year-old son Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman), and bring him out of his shell before he leaves for Princeton.

A 32-year-old bartender/Uber driver, Maddie inherited a comfortable home from her mother in the seaside village of Montauk, but she owes property taxes and her car gets repossessed, thereby losing the ability to make money by driving tourists to pay off her debts.

Learning of the ad placed by the Beckers from her friend Sarah (Natalie Morales), Maddie is desperate enough to convince Percy’s parents that she’s up to the task, though having to disabuse the notion she’s a sex worker.

The inducement for Maddie to undertake an assignment of robbing a college-bound nerd of his virginity is that payment will be a used Buick with low mileage that enables her to cash in on Uber lifts during the busy summer season.

Setting the stage for an introduction, Maddie feigns interest in adopting a rescue dog since this allows her to meet Percy at his volunteer job at the animal shelter.

Having borrowed a van from Sarah’s surfer husband Jim (Scott MacArthur), Maddie insists on giving Percy a ride home, which gets the relationship off to a bad start when he becomes scared that she’s actually trying to kidnap him.

After getting a face full of Mace from a terrified Percy, the putative kidnapping misunderstanding gets cleared up and they end up on a date, and eventually they go skinny-dipping one evening at the beach, where a naked Maddie fights off kids trying to steal their clothes.

“No Hard Feelings” suffers somewhat from its erratic shifts between a serenely raunchy sex comedy and the safer confines of sentimentality where the two main characters form an eventual yet improbable friendship.

An R-rated comedy, “No Hard Feelings” milks a simple premise to allow Jennifer Lawrence’s goofy temptress to shine with comedic appeal, even if the humor is sometimes uneven. It might be best to wait until this movie is on a streaming service.


“Billions” returns for its seventh and final season on Showtime next month, and the best news is that Damian Lewis’ hedge-fund king Bobby Axelord is back and we can only guess that his longtime rival Mike Prince (Corey Stoll) is in for a fight.

In season six, the dust of season five cleared to reveal a world that had evolved. With Axe gone and Prince assuming his place as the new head of Axe Capital, US Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) had to develop a new strategy more sophisticated than before.

All the players, from Wags (David Costabile) to Wendy (Maggie Siff), from Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon) to Kate Sacker (Condola Rashad), and of course Chuck Rhoades, Sr. (Jeffrey DeMunn), had to sharpen their weapons and look for new alliances in order to survive.

Daniel Breaker, who stars as Scooter, the brilliant and locked-down Chief of Staff for Prince, was upped to a series regular. As always in the corrupt world of “Billions,” the ground was ever shifting and the stakes absolute with new conflict and new rules.

Season seven is described as one where “alliances are turned on their heads. Old wounds are weaponized. Loyalties are tested. Betrayal takes on epic proportions. Enemies become wary friends. And Bobby Axelrod returns, as the stakes grow from Wall Street to the world.”

As anyone who has followed “Billions” even casually would know, what’s old is new again. Last season, Prince was in the crosshairs of the US Attorney. With Bobby Axelrod returning, he’s probably a target not just for Chuck Rhoades.

Actions have consequences, and never more dire and momentous than just about any episode of this series. Guys like Prince, Rhoades and Axelrod, among others, are always going to be at each other’s throats. But that’s the tried-and-true formula.

“Billions” likely continues on with cat-and-mouse games between the government officials and Wall Street hustlers. Mike Prince’s political ambitions in an expected presidential run could result in an even more epic minefield of intrigue.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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